I have just read the draft budget produced by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, otherwise known as ICANN.
The new draft relates to 2018. Assuming it is approved what it shows (page 11) is that in 2018 ICANN’s total operating budget will be around US$146 million.
How will the US$ 146 million be financed? That’s easy. On page 15 we see there are two principal sources.
Registries will contribute 88.1 million – 57.3 from transactions and 30.8 from fees.
Registrars will contribute 51 million – 36.9 from transactions and 14.1 from fees.
In last year’s accounts there was a set of numbers which showed that of the total income fully 40% was derived from one particular Registrar (GoDaddy) and one particular company that owned two major Registries: Verisign, proprietors of .com and .net.
As this is a draft budget a similar estimate has not been included although, presumably, it will be when the accounts for 2018 are eventually published. If anything it is likely to show an even greater concentration around those two entities because (page 15 again) the number of Registrars is projected to fall from 2,989 to 2,241.
Small margins in a cut-throat business favour larger businesses. In economics this is often referred to as capitalism’s tendency towards monopoly. Monopolies always work in favour of the monopolist. Rarely do they work to the advantage of the consumer, which is why we have regulators to stop them from happening or break them up. If the number of Registrars continues to decline at a similar rate who will call a halt here?
Anyway, this brings me back to my headline. Can we think of a new and better name for ICANN? One that more accurately reflects what it actually does?
It would need to be a name that recognises the importance and complexity of ICANN’s mission but also acknowledges that the whole shooting match floats atop a sea of money provided from a very narrow base.